Beyond the Female Form

It is exceptional, to say the least, to find statues, busts or otherwise dedicated to female historical figures in America. In fact, as I’ve mention in a previous post, only six such sculptures were in place in New York until very recently. The many females form we see around the city and in fact around the country are strictly allegorical. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I found this bust of Mary Harris Thompson by Daniel Chester French, created in 1902, more than a decade before Joan of Arc was emplaced on Riverside overlooking the Hudson.


Mary Harris Thompson by Daniel Chester French, 1902

I became even more delighted when learning who Mary Harris Thompson was, and here is a glimpse to her story from the description provided by the Art Institute of Chicago.


“When Mary Harris Thompson arrived in Chicago in 1863 to practice medicine, she found a city desperately in need of medical care for women. It was obvious that the city’s two hospitals were grossly inadequate; in fact, one of them did not even accept female patients. Responding to this crisis, Thompson opened the Women and Children’s Hospital in 1865, and in 1870 she founded the Women’s Hospital Medical College, the first medical college for women in the Midwest. At the time of her death, Thompson had gained international recognition, both for being the first female surgeon in Illinois and for opening up the healthcare profession for women.”


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